Several of Newton County’s newly elected officials took their oaths of office Dec. 21 during a ceremony at the Historic Courthouse.
Those sworn in included newcomers Dorothy Bailey-Butts as coroner, Alana Sanders as Board of Commissioners member from District 3, and Marcus Jordan as tax commissioner.
Those re-elected to new terms who took the oath of office included Newton County Commission Chairman Marcello Banes, District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards, District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan and Sheriff Ezell Brown.
The oaths of office were administered by Probate Court Judge Melanie Bell, who was also re-elected to a new four-year term.
CONYERS — The Rockdale County Board of Elections has reversed an earlier decision to reduce the number of Election Day precincts for the Senate runoffs on Jan. 5 and will keep the number of precincts at 16.
The Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday via an emergency Zoom meeting to reduce the number of precincts to four due to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among elections workers. A court order would have been needed to implement the decision.
However, Elections Supervisor Cynthia Willingham emailed the Citizen Wednesday afternoon to advise that the board had changed course and had decided not to seek the court order. She said the board reached the decision by consensus and that no meeting had been held.
“After carefully considering the possible objections, the board felt it was best to continue with our regularly planned precincts of 16,” Willingham wrote in an email.
Rockdale County issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon stating that the Board of Elections had been advised by the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office that the reduction in precincts might not be legal. “After weighing all options and considering the possible implications of enacting such a change days before the election, the board reluctantly decided not to seek the court order,” the county stated.
Willingham said voters of the Milstead precinct, formerly located at St. Simon’s Episcopal Church, 1522 Ga. Highway 138 NE, and Stanton precinct, formerly located at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, 2533 Stanton Road SE, should be reminded that their election day polling site has been relocated to 1400 Parker Road.
The board’s decision Tuesday was based on the fact that seven poll workers at the Parker Road early voting facility had tested positive for the virus, causing concern that cases could continue to increase. Four of those employees are Election Day managers.
In order to ensure the health and safety of its workers, the board will provide onsite Rapid COVID tests to all staff, as it has previously done.
By reducing the number of polling places from 16 to four, Willingham said fewer than 100 poll workers would have been needed, as opposed to the nearly 200 that are usually employed for an election day.
Wednesday afternoon, Willingham said she had no concerns about having enough poll workers next Tuesday and will have reserve workers available.
COVINGTON — The surge in COVID-19 cases has prompted Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton to suspend all jury trials in the state scheduled for January.
The order, issued Dec. 23, states that any trials already underway are to continue to conclusion. All other court proceedings may continue.
“All courts are again urged to use technology when practicable and lawful to conduct remote judicial proceedings as a safer alternative to in-person proceedings,” Melton stated in the order. “Where remote proceedings are not practicable or lawful, courts are reminded that in-person proceedings must be conducted with full compliance with public health guidance… ”
Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney Randy McGinley posted a notice on Facebook stating that both Newton and Walton had been preparing for trials the week of Jan. 11.
“This included regular meetings with the judges, DA’s Office, defense attorneys, law enforcement, health departments and others to ensure they would be conducted in a manner that was safe for everyone. However, the rise in numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 was on our radar and something that we were all watching closely.”
McGinley said anyone who received a notice to appear or a subpoena for jury trials to begin on Jan. 11 does not need to appear in court that day.
“Currently, only jury trials have been cancelled,” added McGinley. “Jury trials vary greatly from other court matters because a much larger number of individuals must be summoned to the courthouse so that jury selection can be conducted. Therefore, other criminal and civil court is still moving forward with an emphasis on handling matters using video conferencing when possible.”